Discussion on the transferable working life skills humanities students learn can sometimes steer towards a deficiency perspective focusing on what is lacking. Our research points to the contrary showing that humanities graduates are indeed well equipped for working life. The shift in attitude needs to start from within study programmes.
You might have come across someone with the concern that a higher education in the humanities doesn’t provide students with enough skills and competencies they will need in working life. While learning doesn’t stop after graduation and it is an impossible task for any one study programme to completely prepare students for all the challenges of working life, it is worth noting that a degree in humanities in fact does provide graduates with many of the skills needed in working life. Furthermore, humanities students graduate with a future-oriented skills profile. The ASSET-H skills perception research conducted on 1300 humanities master’s students revealed that a degree in humanities fosters many of the future-oriented skills identified by the World Economic Forum in the Future of Jobs Report 2020.
The skills profile lists 70 skills that are divided into 6 skills clusters:
Knowledge & information
Students develop an abundance of skills by participating in discipline based teaching
During the H-Highlight workshop for teaching staff, we do not ask participants to add skills to their classes. Instead, we help them unravel the skills already taught through the disciplinary focus and help find ways to convey this information to students. Therefore, teaching staff can help students just by recognizing the transferable skills that discipline based teaching in itself helps develop and then verbalizing these skills to students.
Research indicates that the perceptions students hold about their skills and their ability to tell others about their competences greatly determine the quality of their transition to working life. Therefore, to improve the employability of humanities graduates, teaching staff first become aware of the skills students learn through the course’s disciplinary focus. Secondly, they convey skills information to students. This will help students become aware of the transferable skills they learn during their studies and talk about their skills during their job search.
Photo by Veikko Somerpuro. Source: University of Helsinki.